Dr Su Wang MD, MPH, FACP
President, World Hepatitis Alliance
Hepatitis B and C claim 1.4 million lives every single year: more than HIV/AIDS and malaria. However, compared to other infectious diseases, viral hepatitis receives sparse funding for research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Liver cancer rates continue to rise, largely due to viral hepatitis. Despite these infections being so common, they are often overlooked on the international health agenda. The cost of global indifference is paid in human lives. Suffering from hepatitis could easily be averted, yet little is done.
I am living with hepatitis B, the apathy and lack of prioritisation for viral hepatitis is alarming. Millions of us are living with this disease, but only 10% of us have been diagnosed. Even fewer are receiving life-saving treatments.
I am a mother, and my four children received the hepatitis B birth dose vaccine as soon as they were born. It means the world to me that each of them is free of the infection. Yet millions of babies do not receive this birth dose, their mothers must live with the knowledge they have passed on a lifelong disease to their children.
I am a physician, and I see the hope that comes from awareness and science. We have rapid test kits for hepatitis which can give people results at point of care. We need to test widely to find the missing millions and once found, we need to connect them to care. For hepatitis B, we have effective treatments and for hepatitis C, we have cures. Globally, prices for testing and treatments have gone down, but we need to make sure that individuals can access these lifesaving tools at low cost.
Supporting the affected community
We need to support the affected community and amplify their voices. Something powerful happens when people share their story, and we often hear the devastating effects of hepatitis: people’s lives cut short, children losing their parents, communities mourning the many bright futures that become dim. We owe it to them to give the next generation a legacy of NOhep.
What you can do
1) Get yourself and your loved ones tested. Nine in ten people with hepatitis have no idea they are living with the disease. A simple blood test will tell you your status.
2) Join NOhep.org. This is the global movement to eliminate hepatitis. We need your voice to join calls for action and bring more attention to hepatitis.
3) Celebrate World Hepatitis Day. Let’s increase awareness. Raise your voice with us on 28 July, so the world hears it.